It was with great concern that I noticed our dog's face littered with engorged ticks
one Tuesday afternoon. In haphazard haste, I plucked them with my bare fingers and
eliminated them through the popular "squashing" method. In other words, I stepped
on them with my shoe. I subsequently had to deal with splatters of blood on the concrete
surface beneath our porch, which I repeatedly rinsed off with water.
Although I had more than an inkling that I had gone about the situation all wrong,
I confirmed my suspicions a while later when I conducted research on the infamous
tick. I was upset with myself for having acted so foolishly and prayed that my deeds
would not produce disastrous results.
The tick is often mistaken for an insect, but is in actuality a parasitic arachnid
that feeds upon the blood of its host. A carrier of various diseases such as Rocky
Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever and others, it is second
only to mosquitoes in terms of disease transmission to humans. They can frequently
be discovered in tall grass and shrubs as they await a potential host to which they
can attach themselves. They must depend upon physical contact, for they can neither
fly nor jump.
Tick bites are generally painless. A tick may feed upon its host and fall off in 3-6
days without detection. Although the majority of tick bites are harmless, it is imperative
that you monitor yourself for any physical reactions if you have noticed a tick on
your body. If you discover one actively attached to you, you must remove it promptly.
In this way, you will decrease the likelihood of disease transmission or infection.
Never remove a tick with your bare fingers. Doing so may result in a secretion of
infected fluid that can be transmitted into your body. Ideally, you should remove
a tick with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Position them as close to your skin as
possible, near the mouth of the tick, and pull it straight out. Do not use any twisting
or jerking motions in an effort to detach it, because you may leave the head embedded
in the skin and thus increase the likelihood of infection.
If there are no tweezers available, use a pair of gloves or a piece of tissue as a
covering for your hands.
Never apply rubbing alcohol, petroleum jelly, nail polish, or gasoline to an attached
tick. You will only augment your risk of infection.
Do not attempt to burn a tick with matches.
Thoroughly wash your hands after handling a tick. If you have been bitten, apply an
antiseptic to the area.
When the time comes to dispose of ticks, you may do so by flushing them down the toilet,
placing them in rubbing alcohol or soapy water, or sticking them to tape. However,
it may be of great assistance to your doctor if, after a bite, you enclose the tick
in a vial of alcohol for subsequent identification.
It may take one day to three weeks for symptoms from a tick bite to appear. These
symptoms may range from a mild allergic reaction to severe, flu-like symptoms (nausea,
muscle aches, fever, headaches, chills, fatigue) accompanied by rashes and sores indicating
disease. At times lockjaw can occur that will require a tetanus shot. In rare cases,
tick paralysis may occur, in which a part of the body is rendered immobile. This paralysis
can include tingling, loss of sensation in one or both hands or feet, restlessness,
irritability, and numbness.
If tick paralysis occurs on the head, you may experience double vision or have difficulty
speaking or swallowing. You may also have facial paralysis.
Other Potential Diseases
Lyme Disease. Along with flu-like symptoms and a stiff neck, Lyme disease may produce
a rash that looks like a bull's eye or target. If caught during its early stages,
it can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Left untreated, however, it can cause
problems for the heart, skin, joints, and nervous system that can emerge weeks or
even years later.
Tularemia. Also known as rabbit or deerfly fever, this disease is characterized by
nausea and vomiting, severe headaches, chills, and sudden fevers that can reach 106
F. The glands will swell near the infected area, and an ulcer may appear.
The majority of tularemia cases have been reported in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas.
Tularemia is treated with medication.
Colorado tick fever. This viral disease, concentrated
in the mountainous region of the western U.S., results in muscle aches, photophobia,
chills, fevers, and severe headaches. These symptoms are alleviated with medication.
Ehrlichiosis. This disease is characterized by malaise, fevers, chills, severe headaches,
nausea, and vomiting. A purple or red rash may appear. Most cases have been reported
in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Georgia. Ehrlichiosis is treated with medication.
Babesiosis. Transmitted by deer ticks to humans, this uncommon disease results in
loss of appetite, muscle aches, malaise, fatigue, chills, fevers, and intermittent
sweats. It can be treated with antibiotics.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Also known as tick typhus, spotted fever, and tick fever,
this bacterial infection is transmitted by both dog and wood ticks and can result
in life-threatening complications if not immediately treated. Complications include
kidney failure and shock. The infection is characterized by a rash (small purple or
red spots) that customarily begins on the hands and the soles of the feet that spreads
to the rest of the body. Other symptoms include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting,
and muscle/joint aches.
Relapsing fever. Characterized by a rapid heart rate, muscle aches, malaise, rashes,
severe headaches, and sudden, high fevers, this infection is treated with medication.
Tick Bite Prevention
If you are in a tick infested area, wear light colored clothing in order to detect
any ticks that may be crawling on you. Use long sleeve shirts and tuck your pants
into your socks or boots.
Check for ticks every two hours, especially on the hairy parts of your body (including
the groin.) Be sure to examine your pets as well.
You may also prevent tick bites with repellents such as DEET. Never use DEET on children,
With a bit of knowledge and effort, you can avoid the mistakes I made during my infamous